For the first time since he began his professional pogo career at the age of 14, Franklin native Dalton Smith, the son of Bruce and Denise Smith, has returned to his hometown for some spectacular bouncing around the Williamson County Fair with the Xpogo Stunt Team.
Dalton, now 22 and a five-time world champion of extreme freestyle pogo — and often called CREO for “chief real estate officer” of the pogo title — and the stunt team are performing extreme tricks, wowing kids and terrifying their parents during this year’s fair.
According to Denise Smith, her bouncing baby boy began his career as a baby tumbler.
“He’s been a flipper his whole life,” she said.
A couple of Dalton Smith’s elementary school teachers showed up for one of his performances at the fair. They recalled the numerous times they found him flipping and bouncing off the school’s picnic tables.
It seemed he was doing front flips and back flips almost before he could walk. Denise Smith enrolled her high-energy son in gymnastics when he was 5. The boy’s energy, talent and fearlessness impressed the instructor so much that he approached the mom to talk about about Dalton’s gymnastic future. Dalton wanted nothing to do with it.
“I just want to flip,” he told his mom.
As the story goes, Dalton’s grandmother put quilts and cushions in the backyard for him to jump on and not get hurt when he was little.
One day Denise came home to find every cushion and pillow in the house out on the lawn.
“I knew I had to find something so he could jump and be safe,” she said.
Some old gym mats worked until she reached out to the folks at Let It Shine gym.
“Dalton wanted to do some crazy tricks and I needed to keep him safe,” she said. “He was going to do it. I wanted a safe place.”
The owner arranged for Dalton to do his jump and tumble stunts and land in the gym’s foam pit.
“It was an invaluable solution,” Denise said. “I never dreamed what he was doing would lead to (Dalton’s) first Pogopalooza.”
It was during an fifth-grade Destination Imagination project that Dalton discovered an outlet for his passion.
“We were doing a miniature circus,” he said. “A member of our team had a pogo stick in his garage. I started jumping on it. It was fun and I became obsessed. I used it in the project and later I went on YouTube and got introduced to extreme pogo. It was perfect for me — a kid with a creative brain and a lot of hyper energy.”
Spastic, crazy energy is what he calls it now.
As a young child, Dalton was always seeking a project that incorporated movement. He tried skateboarding and other extreme sports popular at the time, but they didn’t fulfill his urge to bounce. The pogo stick did.
”I gives me the feeling of letting go,” he said. “Like jumping on trampolines or off cliffs into water. It’s like being able to fly — an adrenelin boost.”
His high energy and creative solutions isolated him from other kids his age but kept him focused on his passion: bouncing.
“I was a nice enough kid, but I was the kid parents would try to keep their kids away from. They were afraid they would do something dangerous,” he said.
Dalton quickly conquered the pogo stick. Bouncing soon led to more — doing flips, doing longer jumps, higher jumps, flips while jumping. At 13, Dalton entered his first extreme pogo competition.
“That was the start of seriously doing this,” he said.
During the competition, a stunt went bad and Dalton broke both kneecaps, had a concussion and messed up his face, but not before catching the eye of a team from XPogo, a group with an interest in spreading and developing the sport of extreme pogo across the world. They were putting a stunt team together and Dalton was just the person they wanted.
Dalton’s stunt, a double flip that only went one and a half flips and ended in a belly flop, left him confined to a wheel chair for six months with both legs extending straight out.
During that time, Denise had figured that Dalton surely would not jump anymore, but he was not discouraged.
He was looking forward to joining the XPogo Stunt Team.
Knowing her son’s determination, Denise found an orthopedic doctor who would help him recuperate and bounce back strong and sturdy. Dr. Scott Arthur did just that. Dalton followed his orders exactly. Once he was healed, Arthur cautioned him, telling him that extreme sports bring extreme injuries.
Since that first accident, Dalton has cracked a hip, suffered a broken elbow, broke his collar bone, broke both thumbs, his ankle and has even broken his nose five times.
“I’ve also had two or three concussions,” he added.
Every injury occurred while testing himself and trying new tricks and flips.
“The reality part of the sport is we make the world into a playground,” he said. “We take something mundane and make it magical. It’s a way to get a high without drugs and alcohol.”
Truth be known, people who do extreme sports are people who would do drugs if they didn’t have the outlet, Dalton explained. “We’re always wanting something that gives us excitement. We can get a broken bone but not a broken mind.”
Once he healed from his initial injuries, Dalton, at 14, became the last and youngest of a 10-person extreme pogo stunt team that would perform all over the world.
“Ten years later I’m doing what I was bred to do,” he said. “I’ve been jumping around the world since I was 14.”
Extreme pogo has a short shelf life and Dalton realizes that by the time he’s 30, his career will most likely be over.
“Pogo is one of those sports that uses every muscle in the body,” he said.
That takes a toll after a while. Looking to the future, Dalton has found another interest: filmmaking. In his spare time, he’s honing his filmmaking skills with an eye to a future career in film.
“It’s a crazy journey, but I’ll still have to transition into something else,” he said. “When you achieve your dreams, you say, ‘Now what?’ I’ll have to give myself space to dream again once pogo is over and put my eggs in another basket. I want to make films about things that matter.”
The XPOGO Stunt Team will perform at the fair at 7:15 and 8:15 p.m. today and Friday and at 11:30 a.m., 1, 4:30 and 8 p.m. on Saturday.